Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Anniversary

This is Pepper. She's happy because she has all of her toes.
(I would use a photo of Olive's current state, but Scott doesn't want to see her until her fur grows back.)

Last week was eventful. Poor Olive Dog had to have another toe removed (cancer scare). Last time it concerned her right front foot. That was two years ago already. At that rate I figure she's got enough toes left to serve her well through the end of her days. This time, it was an offending toe on her left hind leg. It had to go. Since we've had experience, we didn't hesitate. The sooner, the better.

The nice thing about dogs is that they don't behave like humans would if we were to lose a digit or two. Dogs don't realize that something like lopping off a toe could have their human catering to their every whim with homemade meatballs, sympathetic glances and lots of love and attention (more than usual, I mean). They don't worry that they'll be treated differently because they're suddenly less than perfect. They're not babies when it comes to surgery. Olive hopped into the car straight from the recovery room at the vet's (a little unsteady, but still enthusiastic) and looked at me as if to say, "I'm feeling better! Let's get outta here!"

Shortly after we got home, I injured my hip, I think due to a combination of schlepping boxes and hoisting my recovering Schnauzer (that's not a metaphor for anything). Olive went back home with Jillian, who provided excellent post-op care. I cancelled my plans to go to the island, since walking is a major activity for us there. The weekend was spent instead catching up on TV while the Aleve and bed rest did its thing. That strategy worked. I'm perfectly fine again and so grateful.

Last week we also celebrated our wedding anniversary. Scott and I were married on the island on Fall 1st (my favorite season) five years ago. Fall 1st is our official anniversary, instead of tying it to the specific date. The morning news mentions the changing of the seasons, so it's a built-in reminder of our wedding day. It's worked every year so far.

Since I'd cancelled my trip to the island, we spoke on the phone that night. "Five years," I say. "Yeah," Scott says, "I remember our wedding like it was yesterday. I can think of a million reasons why I'm so happy that we got married."

What a sweet thing to say. I remember our wedding too, but that's for another story. My female side prepares to hear some tender, thoughtful sentiments, but my logical side knows I'm in for some interesting and honest Aspergian insight. A million reasons? Really?

"Name seven," I say.

Without hesitation he says, "Well, it adds an extra layer that makes it harder for you to escape." That was unexpected and I laugh out loud...he's so honest in his innocent delivery of a line like that.

The next benefit he mentions is, "I've noticed that people figure that if I'm married, I must be more normal than I seem." "Stop there," I say. By now I'm certain all "million reasons" are along similar lines. That's sweet enough, really sweet, thank you. Romantic too...very nice.

Quickly sidetracked, we went on to discuss the government site he found online that, among other things, posts and discusses Obama's memos (the most recent detailing a collaborative, translucent government, which is another topic Scott writes quite a bit about). He's now joined their membership and enjoys the site as a valuable sounding board for his ideas. He's excited and happy, and I'm happy for him.

Though we've never really exchanged anniversary gifts, Scott asked about the traditional gifts for a fifth anniversary. I looked it up and read that wood, representing strength and a solidified relationship, and silverware, representing connectedness, are the traditional and modern gifts associated with the fifth wedding anniversary. We're more than covered since we're using plenty of wood on the incredible home we're building on the island.

Notice Scott's Grinch T-shirt. Notice all the wood.

As for connectedness, silverware isn't as modern or appropriate as the Internet in representing our connectedness, since that's not only where we met, but what keeps us connected to most everyone else in our world too.

Like you, for example. Thanks for dropping by. Come back again soon...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Better You Look, the More You See

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”  ~Albert Einstein
With that in mind, I try to include a few things in my morning routine that support the desire to inch toward a healthier mind and body as I careen through my 50s. I'd like to avoid slipping off of the tracks for as long as possible. I'm not always successful including everything in the routine, but it doesn't stop me from trying.

The list for the body:

The Magic Cloth
  1. A few stretching and breathing exercises.
  2. Some dental hygiene and a shower that includes a good scrub with something called a Salux that Scott discovered. While it initially seems like punishment (it's so scritchy), it quickly becomes addictive.
  3. Some creamy emollients to ward off dry skin after that scritchy thing.
  4. A few minutes using a percussive massager (I bought it for Scott, but it was too intense and he never liked it) to pummel my flesh into prime Kobe beef (my daughter's description). I can tell when the sound changes that things are being positively affected by this activity. (The less noise, the better.)
  5. Some comfy clothes.
  6. Some coffee while I feed the critters.
  7. Omega 3s (fish oil), vitamins and a huge glass of water.
  8. Oatmeal with flax seeds and soy milk (Yes, I'm a true California native...why do you ask?).
The list for the mind:
  1. A few minutes learning to play the bass (then a few more minutes and a few more minutes). 
  2. A few minutes spent with something inspiring or thought provoking that's unrelated to my usual bookkeeping and/or other mundane tasks. Usually something from 
Today I watched a fascinating talk by Oliver Sacks. For me, hearing him speak passionately about his life's work is like being read the most engaging bedtime story. I lean in, I smile...I don't want it to end...I love Oliver Sacks.

If you've got 18 minutes, this is a fascinating and often humorous discussion of hallucinations that blind people can have and other odd visual manifestations the brain provides. Eyes are apparently not always a requirement for vision. I was particularly interested in how the brain processes cartoons, since I'm such a huge fan of animation. He also discusses the geometric light flashes that people with migraine headaches sometimes experience.

About this talk

Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks brings our attention to Charles Bonnett syndrome -- when visually impaired people experience lucid hallucinations. He describes the experiences of his patients in heartwarming detail and walks us through the biology of this under-reported phenomenon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

iPhone "Art" in Two Minutes

This afternoon I found Bernice on top of the secretary desk in the family room. I've never seen her up there before so I took this photo with the iPhone, opened the App "Photogene" and applied an "effect":


I like it!

Here's another example I did last month with my own eyeball:

Step One

...and new User EyeD

I've since taken "eyeball photos" of a few friends and applied the same "effect". The willingness that my friends have to offer up their eyeballs in a split-second for an iPhone photo without so much as a "Why?" delights me to no end. This one of the eyeball of Dion Wright, my amazing artist friend, truly needs no stands on its own with a tremendous amount of character in one shot:

But here's what happened after the filter was applied (if it's too dramatic, refer to the peaceful kitty photo above):

Here's looking at YOU!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life as an Aspergian Female

Look Me In The Eye: Life as an Aspergian Female

Wow, just wow. The link above is to an essay of an Aspergian female who posted as a guest at John Elder Robison's blog. All I can say is she articulates her experience amazingly well and in plenty of detail. I know Scott would agree with much of what she says there (outside of the bit about aliens and Christ...but he wouldn't discount the rest of the essay for that indiscretion).

Scott read the essay and related to it, as I expected. We both left comments at the site. Mine was in defense of her perspective and Scott's was in response to reading her essay.

Emotional Blindness

In a conversation today, I referred to people with Asperger's tendencies as "Aspergian" and thought I should Google it to see if it was politically correct to use such a term. It linked me to an excellent article by John Elder Robison, who is the author of Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's.

His topic, "Are Aspergians really rude and inconsiderate?" His discussion about how "emotional blindness" works for an Aspergian is excellent. He gives real life examples, including how he and his wife deal with the situation.

When I first noticed Scott's inability to read emotional cues (and often make inappropriate comments), I felt as though I should scurry behind him, listen in on his social interactions, and mitigate any inadvertent hurtful comments he may have made during the transaction.

My love for him wanted to protect him from his own misunderstanding of a situation's emotional perspective and impact. This proved to be a big job. Early on, I decided not to take on the duties of the "nice" police. I gave up and figured either people would "get him" or they wouldn't. C'est la vie.

It was hard at first, being the mate to a man who seemed so inconsiderate, blunt and succinct to others meeting him for the first time, but it's also freeing to just watch it all play out. You learn a lot about people. Plus, generally after a half hour or so in a new social situation, Scott disappears altogether, going for a walk or somewhere to read. I used to worry about that since his sense of direction is so poor, but I'm over that too. He's been on a few anxiety-producing adventures, but I haven't lost him yet. Life on an island makes that much easier, too.

John Elder Robison contributes to a blog at the Psychology Today site, which I hadn't discovered before and will be visiting often. The November 2008 article and blog are here.

My favorite excerpt:
"Sometimes people ask me, "What kind of person should a guy with Asperger's look for?"
I can't speak for you, but this is an answer that's worked for me:
People with Asperger's have very weak sensitivity to other people's thoughts and feelings. But we often offset that with exceptionally strong logical brains. Therefore, we are wise to seek a mate with exceptional emotional sensitivity and less logical brainpower. Then, our mental abilities compliment each other's. One of us has great emotional intelligence, and the other has great logical intelligence. Individually, we're each weak. Together, though, we are very strong.
Of course, your mileage may vary."
PS: I just found John Robison's personal blog/website, which is here and looks to be an excellent resource  too!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Tweet Worth It's Chirp

Jason Goldman tweeted this today:

I liked Jason's bio, which reads, "Flipped my wig at age 22 and it never grew back."  When he "followed" me, I "followed" him to return the favor. If a tweeter's bio makes me laugh, they deserve a follow (in my imaginary rule book).

This is a "ReTweet", which means he received and liked something from someone and passed it along to his "followers". When you click on the link, you go to a photo on Flickr that was supposed to have been taken of the thunderstorm in San Francisco last night! 

Click here to see this amazing shot:

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Landmark Day

September 11, 2001. Our world would never be the same. The air felt different, as though Earth had been enclosed in a sphere filled with a tragic intimacy that spread over the consciousness of the entire planet in an instant.

Something else happened that same day 35 years ago, but since 2001 my son-in-law has been unable to enjoy or acknowledge his birthday with any gusto. Images of an event that changed the world eclipse any possibility that he will forget for a moment and allow himself a selfish indulgence on this day.

Being a Marine means a lot of things, and I can't pretend to completely understand, but I recognize the intense loyalty and respect that John exhibits daily for his duty to his country. I read something once that drove home the full meaning of the path he's chosen.
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check that read "Payable to The United States of America for an amount up to and including my life."
Our Master Sergeant John has served two tours in Iraq, and will likely go to Afghanistan next year. He is the epitome of the Marine Corps motto "Semper Fidelis" (a latin phrase meaning "Always Faithful").

He's added so much to our family that I can't believe our good fortune. The joy I have as a mother, knowing that my daughter found a mate who brings laughter, love and music into her life (and our lives) is a gift I am grateful for daily.

Happy Birthday John. We love you. Monumental things happened on this day, it's true, but it's a landmark day for us because you were born 35 years ago. Without you in it, our world would never be the same.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

USMC ODB (Olive Dog Bryan)

I miss Olive, and it makes me happy when Jillian sends a smiling dog photo my way. A lot more dressing up of the doggies goes on at my daughter and son-in-law's house. Olive seems proud of her military status.

Monday, September 7, 2009

On Human Emotion

It may seem like a breach of privacy between a couple to post something like this, but I honestly think it sheds light on a point of view that may be common to Aspies. Early on Scott gave me his permission to write anything about him from my perspective. I've received emails from people who feel helped by the posts concerning my take on Scott's outlook. Both Scott and I agree that if a post alleviates someone's pain or provides a path to understanding, it's worth the slight discomfort it may cause the two of us.

This one gives some insight into Scott's opinion on the utility of human emotion. He emailed me the following after he read the posts I've written about him on this blog:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Scott Bryan" 
To: "Allyn Bryan" 
Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 12:01 AM
Subject: a thought after reading all your blogs about me.

> my emotional pool is as broad as an ocean, but nowhere deep enough to drown even a cat.

>>> On Sep 7, 2009, at 6:37 AM, Allyn Bryan wrote:
>>>> Good that how you really feel or is it how it feels to you after reading my perspective?

>>>> Sent from my iPhone

----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Scott Bryan" 
>> To: "Allyn Bryan"
>> Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 7:58 AM
>> Subject: Re: a thought after reading all your blogs about me.
>>> The latter.  But maybe the former too.  I don't think about emotions much because they seem so artificial. An ancient technology for providing guidance before an internal model of reality can be developed to replace them with genuine understanding. Emotions are always plan B.

>> On Sep 7, 2009, at 8:10 AM, Allyn Bryan wrote:
>> When you say it like that, I can understand your perspective clearly. I think that's the best summary ever. It explains so much about how you and the world interact. When the knee-jerk reaction from 95% of skinware (people) is to use emotion and or intuition as plan A, you diligently discount its utility and replace their flawed perspective with sound logic and reality that takes into account the broadest, long-term perspective. They resist...they you continue to add building blocks to create a foundation of understanding for even the most emotionally-based human. It's a big job you have in this life...

Even if you say you don't think about emotions much, you certainly feel deeply about there something else to call that feeling?

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Scott Bryan"
> To: "Allyn Bryan"
> Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 8:14 AM
> Subject: Re: a thought after reading all your blogs about me.
>> Aw shucks...I do miss you.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Allyn Bryan" 
To: "Scott Bryan" 
Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 8:15 AM
Subject: Re: a thought after reading all your blogs about me.
> That's sweet, and made me laugh...

Is it just me, or did that exchange evolve into what amounts to a "romantic" email? You wouldn't expect that when his opener evokes the image of a drowning cat. (I've got more questions about that analogy. It's as though if he did get hit by something like a "deep emotion," it would definitely need to be held underwater until it expired.)

I've been on the mainland for quite a stretch now, with infrequent and/or brief visits to the island...I think he noticed. No worries, soon I'll be a full-time islander.